As we get older we tend to become fixed in our routines and habits. In many ways we need routine and habit to be able to function in society however it can also limit how we experience life. Routine and familiarity means that we revert to living on autopilot. Getting up at the same time, going through our day following the same steps we took the day before and probably everyday, it means we don’t really have to be fully aware. This is precisely why it is important to take a break from routine.
Taking a Break from Routine
Taking a break doesn’t have to be a big deal, it doesn’t have to be expensive or even take you too far out of your comfort zone. To be able to start break your routines a little you have to give up some control, you have to be able to start living more in the moment, in the flow of life. It takes time to do that, especially if you are not used to doing things that you are not comfortable with.
Why is it Important to Break from Routine?
To fully experience life, to be in the moment, in the flow allows us to experience life in a much more authentic way. When we are being more than just spectators we awaken our senses and bring life into our life.
How many times have you looked back at your life and wondered where all the years went? It can be pretty scary to see just how fast life passes. But we can slow life down by paying attention to it, to being present in our experiences and to sometimes kick it up a bit. Do something different, do something uncomfortable, take chances and yes let it flow without actually knowing what might or might not happen.
When I worked in London, I’d try to change things even in the smallest way. Take a different route to work, try a different cafe for breakfast and anything small that allowed me to carry on fulfilling my daily responsibilities but still changed things up a little.
I wanted to share a short video of photos taken this weekend. I like to just do random things, sometimes with friends and sometimes alone. For me it is a vital part of feeling life, of expanding my experiences and taking in whatever may come without any preconceived expectations. So here’s a little snapshot of a short trip to Lille in France.
I want to inspire people. I love it when someone says to me “Because of you I didn’t give up” or “Because of you I made that change!” – Anna Zannides
So perhaps I can help you see that life is more than routines, habits and comfort zones. Of course in the end, we all have to make our own choices, I just hope to help you make better decisions for you.
Today I got an email from one of my tenants giving notice to terminate his contract. Nothing special about that, except that this forty year old man has been battling cancer for the last couple of years. Last month he was taken into hospital again but this time it was different, this time he was given the news that he was terminal. But inspite of this, he continued to pay his rent and say he was coming home. Until yesterday, finally given the news that he had two weeks to live, he has resigned himself to a peaceful ending. Sounds strange to be talking about this in the context of being happy right?
“It’s not impermanence that makes us suffer. What makes us suffer is wanting things to be permanent when they are not” – Thich Nhat Han
It made me sad to think of this young man sitting in a hospital waiting for his life to end. However at the same time I felt an overwhelming gratitude for my own life. And in that instant I decided to just walk, go out into the fresh air, to smell the tree’s damp in the autumn climate, stand under the bright sun and soak it in and listen to the bird life right on my doorstep.
What’s the One Thing That Will Make You Happy in an Instant?
And in that instant I started to feel a little sorry for the people who can not see the miracle that is life, the privilege to be living and breathing. I felt sad for people who live in the darkness of their negative thinking. The one’s that chase more, more money, a bigger car, a bigger house, more, more stuff and all the while missing the essence of life. To be happy does not require any stuff, it requires a clear understanding that life is precious, this moment is precious and if we can just soak in the seriousness of this we are instantly happy.
It got me reflect on what maybe going through this young man’s mind right now, as he waits for his final hour. So I sat on the damp log in the middle of the local park, listened to the noises and tried to imagine what he may be going through right now. It takes great strength to come to terms with the ending, even though it is the one thing we are certain of. I took this video while I was sitting in the park, nature and peace through my eyes I guess. This is life.
And I made a promise to all those who are battling with illness, who lost their lives too soon and who are no longer with us:
I will live my life in respect for them, in respect for the moments they never got. I will live my life in honour of those that lost their lives too soon because that is the only way to live. When we do not take our life serious, when we do not love every moment we live, when we squander our life on meaningless things, we do not respect those who did not get the chance.
I apologise to those that find talking about death difficult but I guess for me it is vital to understand that death is what makes life so precious. To be happy we must savour every moment we are here to live.
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Have you ever sat to reflect on your life and come to realise that actually you don’t remember the whole story? What you actually remember are moments, your mind can only recall history in snip its. And then if you go further you come to understand that you have retained particular moments in your life, perhaps traumatic or perhaps joyful, none the less they are just moments in your life.
So if life is made up of moments, can we begin to accept the fundamental importance of being totally present in each moment? Because that moment is where you change your life, that moment is where you make a decision that has a direct impact on your future.
What is The Moment?
But what is this “moment” that everyone keeps talking about? To be able pay attention to your life in each moment you have to understand what “the moment” actually feels like. I would love to be able to describe it for you and perhaps I’ll attempt to do that at some time. But for now here’s a funny response given by the Dalai Lama. He is an example of someone who lives in the now because it’s the only way he knows how to live. His response is open, direct, honest and definitely in the moment. Unlike most of us who would first think it through, what should I say? Who maybe offended?
This Moment is A Significant Moment
Of course every moment is significant, the very fact that you are still breathing, still living is a significant moment. However often we miss significant moments, we don’t pay attention to our thoughts and we make decisions based on the past. As soon as we stop to “think” we are using our past experience to make what we think is a rational decision. To an extent this is absolutely necessary however what we don’t do is stop and feel.
Yes often we miss the moment because we are thinking, that is precisely the reason we go backwards and forwards with our thoughts, missing feeling, missing being and missing tasting the moment.
As soon as we understand how important being present in the moment actually is, we start to make better decisions, we start to be the master of our life because our decisions are aligned to our true self.
This might sound very soft or spiritual to some. To make decisions based on being in the moment is not our natural way. We have been taught to ignore our gut instinct, to listen to the mind more than the heart in favour of what is supposed to be logical. But this is not the case if our thoughts are a collection of moments we have acquired from the past. Simply put if we stop and listen to our heart, otherwise known as our gut instinct or feelings, then often we make far better choices.
Your heart knows things that your mind can’t explain – start listening!
Changing the Course of Your Life
So going back to why I started writing this post, I have a question to ask you. When you reflect on your life, do you see moments where you made decision and where not really present? I certainly see many moments in my life where I just went with the “supposed to do” or “it’s the right thing to do” rather than listening to my gut or feeling what was right.
Because when you listen to your feelings, often they will take of the beaten track and that can be a scary place to go.
Today I live my life very much based on what feels right, I rarely listen to my mind because it has betrayed me too often. Filled with stories from the past, filled with labels that serve to confine us to a limiting life. I’ve learnt to listen only lightly to the mind and much more to the heart. I’m still learning of course but at least now I’m aware.
Perhaps you can start to ask yourself who is running your life?
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Self discovery seems to take up a lot of time in our life. There seems to be an assumption that you must search for you because you do not know who you are. So you go along this journey you call life collecting various labels to attach to in order to gain a sense of identity, a sense of who you are. I am a woman, a mother, a grandmother. I am intelligent because I have a degree. I am Greek, I am British and whatever else I have identified myself with over the course of the years.
What happens when one of these labels no longer fits? Well from my experience, you lose a sense of who you are. You then try to find new labels, new ways of gaining an understanding of who you are. But what if you just stopped for a minute and paid attention to who you are, what if you removed all the labels and looked at yourself authentically.
What if you stopped asking who am I and just allowed yourself to be?
Everything in the universe is within you. Ask all from yourself – Rumi
When you go about your life in search of an identity you lose the essence of life. You are always searching, trying to find something outside of you that can fit and make you feel whole. When you are feeling empty or something seems to be missing, the assumption is that you can nurture that feeling with something outside of you. But the reality is that all that you are is already within you, only when you connect with yourself can you fill that void.
The problem I guess for many of us is that this idea of not searching, not looking for more than what we already are, is difficult to understand. The idea that you are who you are, that’s it. No need to search or try to explain or even discover. After all if you are all that you are, right there, then self discovery is not necessary.
How Can You Connect With Who You Are?
Firstly try having a heart to heart conversation with yourself. Yes it may sound a little crazy but give it a go every now and again. Oh and remember to listen to the answers. Don’t change the answers to sound better or even deny what comes up, just listen without judgment.
Complete and utter self acceptance. Sounds hard to do doesn’t it? After all aren’t we always told we should be self improving? Doesn’t that mean that we should never just accept who we are? I’d argue that we are perfect as we are, accepting that is a empowering place to be. Does that mean you have to accept that you can’t evolve into a person with higher awareness? No it doesn’t but it does mean that whatever you want to be is already present within you.
Self acceptance also means that you accept that you are not perfect, that nobody is perfect, that life itself is not perfect and with that acceptance find peace with the things that are not as you wish them to be.
And this means that we just live our lives without trying to be anything or anyone, just living.
How Do You Just Live?
Isn’t it funny how the simple things become so complicated when you start to think about it? How do you just live? How do you just be who you are?
The main thing is to come out of your head. To begin let go of the thoughts you attach to about who you or are not. Start paying attention to these thoughts and perhaps work on letting go of any attachments you may have to labels about yourself. And just live – no identity needed.
Thought it would also be great to share this post where Lady Gaga talks about the power of saying no and how she started to find herself again.
You are not your thoughts and you are not the product of your thoughts – Alan Finger
It’s a real privilege to help people going through difficult and challenging times in their lives. I am humbled by the cancer patients I work with, they teach me the importance of living life now. However I see that even with such a life threatening disease they still don’t grasp the need to just live. In a recent session I asked the group “What are you waiting for?”
“I’m waiting for my children to grow up”
“I’m waiting to earn more”
“I’m waiting until ????”
What Are You Waiting For – When the Only Moment is Now?
Perhaps people have become so desensitised to the present moment that they can’t even recognise it? Perhaps we have become so accustomed to always doing, always looking forward or analyzing the past that we are never present in the moment?
Waiting for Permission
During our discussion it was evident that so many of us hold ourselves back, put things of and mostly ignore our own needs for others. We don’t want to upset others, we don’t want to let then down so we put others before ourselves. But surely self neglect is a serious matter? After all isn’t our main responsibility to make the most of this one precious life we have been given?
Society unfortunately has us believe that to look after ourselves we must be selfish. To put ourselves first is selfish but the that is the absolute opposite of the truth. We owe it to our loved ones to put ourselves first, so we are happy and healthy. Isn’t that what you would want for your loved ones, to be happy and healthy?
Or perhaps we are just good at making excuses to live a life less than amazing, maybe we’ve given up on the idea that life is more than what we experience it as?
I took the risk to ask the ladies at the cancer workshop if life would be better if we lived forever? Would we really be happier if we didn’t die? And all of them said no because the truth is that we do expire, it’s exactly knowing that life will end that should make us all realise the preciousness of life, every minute of it.
Next time you find yourself running into the past or the future, feeling a disconnect with life or looking for something better then try this:
STOP – BREATHE – SMELL THE AIR – AND JUST BE
Grasp that moment because the next breathe is a new moment which you never get back
In this video Sam Harris talks about living in the now as he says “we only have now and now and now”
I’ve been wanting to share my thoughts on the Law of Attraction for a long time but held back because of the staunch support it has. A few times when I’ve challenged people on the concept of the Law of Attraction, it has invoked some angry and defensive responses. So I’ve stayed away from the topic until now. I’ve seen the damage it can cause to people going through considerable difficulties in life to not speak some truths. So here I go.
Danger 1 – The Law of Attraction is Forward Thinking
I guess the most important aspect of the law of attraction that makes me uncomfortable is that it is completely focused on the future. There is nothing wrong with being positive about the future, why shouldn’t we be? However looking forward to better days means we miss the essence of now, the only moment that is real.
If all it took to make us happy was to think of better days to come, then surely we should all be jumping for joy right now? Let’s get real, that’s not the case. We only become peaceful and happy when we are present with the now.
Of course have dreams for the future, work hard for the future but don’t live in it and don’t let it consume your every thought. Not at the expense of missing life.
Danger 2 – You Never Learn to Live with Disappointment and Sadness
And here is the disease of modern society, the inability to live with anything negative, the inability to accept when things don’t turn out how you want them and worse the inability to accept you can’t always have things your own way.
The law of attraction promises you that if you think hard enough, if you really focus all your energy then you attract what it is you want. And if you don’t have what you want, it’s because you just haven’t focused your thoughts properly.
There is a certain element of truth in this of course. Determination and focus in life will get you where you want to be. Laser sharp focus and hard word work is more likely to equal success than doing nothing or being negative. That’s a given. But the danger of the law of attraction is that many see it as a science in that all you have to do is focus, think about it all the time and there you are the universe gives it to you. Like all science, there’s always a margin of error and there are no guarantees in life.
The more you refuse to accept that life is full of disappointment the unhappier you become. I’m not being a pessimist or negative here I am being a realist. Life is all about ups and downs, it is the very nature of life. The more you resist, the more you ignore, the more you become disconnected with life as it is now.
Danger 3 – There is No Gratitude for What We Have
I want to stress that I’m not advocating that we just give up and accept life without trying to better things for us and others. Actually living in the present moment, with complete awareness of your own thoughts, feelings, emotions and consequent actions is a powerful way to affect change.
However when all we do is look forward to better days and more things in our life, we stop appreciating what we have right now.
Gratitude is an amazing attitude.
Having the ability to be grateful for even the smallest thing brings peace into one’s life in an instant.
Why delay being at peace with life in the hope of a better future?
What happens if that future isn’t better?
What if now is perfect but we fail to see it until it’s too late?
Let’s savour Now and leave the future where it is.
The more I talk with people in my groups the more I see the unresolved pain we carry from our relationships. After all we invest so much into our relationships, it’s no surprise that we become emotionally attached.
When a relationship ends, especially an intimate one, we feel like failures. Once we stop blaming others about the so called failed relationship we realise we also played a part in the outcome. A relationship that didn’t last the course is then seen as a failure, we are seen as failures and worse we start to see ourselves as failures.
If the purpose of life is to learn, grow and become the best person you can, then all experiences are lessons. A failed marriage is no more a failure than a marriage that lasts a life time, the lessons maybe different but they are all important opportunities to grow.
Some of the most successful, influential people today have overcome many disappointments to create extraordinary lives. Without these experiences would they have become who they are?
Never a Failure Always a Lesson
Sometimes we learn more from a casual encounter than from people we see, live and know for a long time. We can not measure the importance of a relationship on it’s length, after all we can only see the impact of any lessons we learn through the course of our life.
I guess the point I am trying to make here is that we should be open to life, letting people flow through without becoming so attached that we miss life’s lessons. If you have been through a painful relationship breakup, dare I say it? Yes I’ll dare, I’d say you are privileged to be given one of life’s greatest lessons. Of course you get to choose how you learn, what you learn and what you do with it but you have an opportunity to see things much clearer now.
I can certainly vouch for my own breakup being the greatest wakeup call I’ve had. Fear kept me in denial for a long time.
If you believe illusions to be real and reality to be illusions, you will never achieve inner peace.
So I say thank you for the experience, thank you for the wake up call and I’ll attempt to make the most of this one great lesson.
In this video, Oprah Winfrey eloquently talks about life and the fact that “There are no mistakes”She helps to show that life is a series of moments, however a moment is just that a moment. It’s not our life, each moment determines the direction of our journey. If we are not paying attention it may steer us in the wrong direction until we finally wake up.
Can you be brave enough to embrace even painful experience?
Can you see that these are the ones that help you grow?
I’ve made a conscious decision to stop ignoring my inner voice, now I’m paying attention. This has sometimes taken me into unfamiliar territory and often out of my comfort zone.
I recently signed up to a memoir writing course in London, following my inner voice. It’s been challenging, pushing myself to open up and to share my story a bit more than I am used to.
This short story is my latest piece. Time to let go of any fear of being judged and just get it out. Hope you enjoy.
The boy in the photo
I don’t know his name; these visits to children’s homes are impersonal. I guess it’s a way of staying on track with the work that has to be done.
I look at this photograph from time to time and remember the day I met this little boy. We were told not to get too close to the children at the home, they were likely to be carrying lice, flees and whatever else is out there when you live in these conditions. We were warned that the conditions here were worse than the other homes we had visited.
It was my intention to just go with the group; stay focused on the plan and then move onto the next visit. I’m in Nepal dealing with the turmoil in my life and none of what is happening now was in the plan. One thing I have learnt recently is that not much in life goes according to plan and sometimes this is a gift in disguise. So here I am thousands of miles away from home, with a group of people I’ve just met going to another children’s home.
Today we are there to check the quality of the water and to check the overall health of the children. We are also here to teach the children about personal hygiene and to give them each a toothbrush, toothpaste and soap.
As we get closer to the home, I notice it has no windows, no doors, no lights and nothing but concrete floors and walls. The most memorable moment was the smell, it hit me as I walked in and then I realised that this time the home maybe just a little more shocking.
We walk up the stairs to be greeted by the “staff”. Same story, they are really happy to see us and willing to impress. But it’s important to not be distracted by the story they present and stay focused on the children because their eyes tell the real story.
The children are even more excited to see us. They spend their lives going unnoticed, who are they anyway? Most don’t even know their own name, let alone their date of birth. They have been prepped that’s for sure, I instantly noticed their uneasiness.
Then I see this beautiful little boy his hair shining from the dirt and grease. His clothes stained and in need of a wash. I can but see how perfect he is, those big dark eyes and smile showing his innocence. Although I don’t speak his language I approach him to give him his toothbrush, toothpaste and soap. I demonstrate how he should use them to wash, hoping he won’t try to eat the soap and toothpaste. We spend a few minutes in some kind of communication, I think he is happy that someone has given him some attention and probably even more excited about the free gifts he has been given.
I’m almost certain that this little boy has not been cuddled for a long time, if ever. The only thing I can give him is my attention to make him feel he is worthy of human affection. So I ignore the warnings and I cuddle him, hold him close like a mother should and give him just a little of what our children take for granted. He doesn’t pull back, he just accepts the cuddle as any child would and his eyes light up.
Right there and then I thought, “if I could take him home, give him a bath, some good food, clean clothes and a warm, safe bed to sleep in, that would change his life” and for a while I contemplated doing just that. But it’s never so straightforward.
As our day comes to an end I feel sad at leaving him behind, no idea what his life will turn out like, no idea if he will end up back on the streets.
What this little boy doesn’t know is that he gave me far more than I could have given him. My own problems seemed so insignificant. My struggles are so much easier to overcome now I see real suffering.
Yet when I look into his eyes all I see is the joy he got from the simple things he experienced on that day, in that moment. In the context of his life that’s the only way he can live, moment to moment. Perhaps that the lesson we should all learn.
Sometimes you will never know the true value of a moment until it becomes a memory
Sometimes I struggle to understand why we take life for granted, how we can become so complacent and not appreciate this miracle of life that we have been given.
It might sound cliche or even soft but one thing I do know is that life is precious and the older I get the more I realise that I have already missed so much of my life.
This week two famous Brits died, leaving me feel even more aware of the fact that death is inevitable. If it can hit the likes of David Bowie and Alan Rickman, then there’s no hiding from death for any of us.
Perhaps then given that we don’t know when our lives will end, it’s time to accept the miracle of life and live every moment.
This video shows just how much of a miracle our own life is.
Just remember that you out of all the millions running to be created, you won!
Today I attended a short course, the theme being an Introduction to NLP (Neuro-linguistic programming) . It was a day full of interesting information about how we can model human excellence. I’m no expert on this so I won’t try to explain in detail except to share this brief definition of NLP
“Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) is an approach to communication, personal development, and psychotherapy created by Richard Bandler and John Grinder in California, United States in the 1970s”
Usually at this type of workshop you are thrust into group activities that take you a little out of your comfort zone. Here you are with a group of people you have never met before sharing personal stuff, making you instantly a little vulnerable. But that’s the name of the game at these training events, you learn so much.
To the point, one of the group activities was to stand with three random strangers and ask a set of questions. The task was to watch for behavior patterns when the questions were being asked and to see how much of the information we could retain.
Who Are You?
The first question was simple Who Are You?
The common response is actually pretty straight forward, isn’t it? I am Anna. Full stop.
But that’s not true at all because Anna is just the label I was given at birth. When you start to really think about that question, Who Are You? it becomes a much deeper exploration.
If you take away all the labels you have attached to who you think you are, then you find the essence of who you are. Most of us came up with, I am a mother, a wife, a teacher, an athlete, an artist and the list goes on. But these words only describe roles we play in our life, they don’t really explain who we are at our core.
That got me thinking about another question. If we associate ourselves with the roles we play in life, what happens when that role changes or disappears altogether? What happens when you lose your job, you get older and can no longer be an athlete, your marriage ends and you are no longer a wife or husband? When that label you have identified yourself with for so long goes, then who are you?
When you lose your labels do you cease to exist? I doubt that very much because you are much more than the roles you play in life or the labels you attach to you. You are part of everything that exists and that is way more than a label.
I wanted to share a poem that has inspired me through the difficult times. It has a powerful message, it acts as a reminder that this journey we call life is our journey. Nobody else can live our life just as we can not live anybody else’s. (more…)
Practicing Mindfulness is not just about sitting meditation, it’s a way of life and part of everything you do.
I love to travel, it’s something I wish I could do more of because there is a whole world to discover. However I sometimes get a little concerned because it takes me out of my routine and makes it difficult for me to do my formal practice.
I discussed this with my Mindfulness practice group and we came up with some ideas of how to incorporate Mindfulness into my last trip to Amsterdam.
I was out this morning and within 10 minutes I came across at least 3 people who were sleeping instead of paying attention.
You know the driver that didn’t see you crossing because they are on their phone, the one who walks straight into you and doesn’t even notice and the one who just rushes around for no apparent reason.
That’s a rather literal way to explain the point I am trying to make here.
You were born to live, not sleep
We tend to sleep through much of our life, taking things for granted because there’s always tomorrow right?
What if you knew that tomorrow wasn’t going to come, would that change the way you live your life?
The truth is that tomorrow never comes because the minute tomorrow is here, it’s today. So waiting for tomorrow is pointless.
I remember the days when I would just feel like a machine. Get up, get dressed, have a coffee, run off to work. Spend the day waiting for the day to finish so I could go home. Then push my way through the crowds on the London Underground to get home. Cook, Eat, Wash up and fall onto the sofa, dead to the world! Only to repeat it the next day.
Lucky for me, I was made redundant then my divorce gave me the final kick up the arse (excuse the language) and I grabbed at the opportunity to change everything. Otherwise I would still be on that treadmill, day in day out.
So how do you stay fully alive but still survive in our society?
Becoming aware of the fact that you are not happy with the way things are is the first step to change. This is the beginning of waking up.
I’m not saying you just get up one day and run. Make a plan, look at your options and decide what you have to do.
Start making small changes in your life, everyday. Like spending less time in front of the TV and doing things that are interesting, fulfilling and life enhancing. TV numbs you, it rarely adds to your life.
Don’t get swept up in the story sold to you about working harder and saving for the future. What future? We sell our life in the hope for a better future, how much is your life worth?
Really get to know what it is you want out of life, what makes you happy and then make it happen.
Let go of fear, it’s not real and most of what is in your head are just stories that paralyze you. Hear them but pay no attention.